1.10 Beyond work - A ministry of leadership and service
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines vocation as "a strong desire to spend your life doing a certain kind of work." We have all heard stories, if it isn't our own experience, of people who, even as young children, have always wanted to be a policeman, teacher, fireman or nurse or some other profession. We often observe that some people seem born to do a certain type of work, such is their natural disposition, passion, skill and commitment.
Do you have a career, profession or vocation?
You may be such a person who views their work with the Curia as a vocation. Your passion, skill and commitment will be valued by your colleagues and those you serve. You may also be a person whose sense of vocation also has a religious dimension.
There is a further meaning to the term 'vocation' which originated in Christianity, namely, vocation as a call from God. Anyone who has felt God's call knows that the process of discerning and responding to this call is anything but simple. While most people think of a vocation as what they are called to do in life, it is important to understand that the first and most important call from God is a call to be - what the Church appreciates as "the universal call to holiness."
Having a 'vocation' is often distinguished from having a career or profession, even though a person may have a sense of possessing all three. A career or a profession is pursued in order to support yourself and your family and to contribute in some way to the good of the society. You don't need to believe in God to choose a profession or pursue a career. Into the future, people will, increasingly, not have a single life long career.
When we talk about vocation, we introduce a vertical dimension in our life, which flows from a relationship with God. It is no longer only ‘What do I want to be and do?' but rather ‘What does God want me to be and do?" A vocation is not something that you can switch like a profession or a career.
Our previous bishop, Bishop David Walker often explained the difference using the example of house-cleaning done by good professional cleaners and a family member. The critical difference is not in the quality of the cleaning but in the motivation which determines the ultimate meaning of the act of cleaning. Contracted cleaners are motivated by commercial and professional values whereas a family member is motivated by purposes and values that arise from pride in the home and love for other members of the family.... even if they do curse occasionally when things have been left for them to clean up!
This distinction between 'a call to holiness' and a call to a specific vocation - single person, married life, consecrated life or ordained ministry - is important. At this stage you may be thinking, 'Come on... me holy? Me called to holiness? Isn't that just for priests and brothers and nuns?'
The universal call to holiness is grounded in our baptism. It is a call to know, love and serve the Lord. It is a movement that draws us toward a deeper union with God in relationship with and service of others. We feel a growing desire to love God and to love our neighbour. We come to understand that there is a reason for our existence and there is ultimate significance and meaning in our lives.
The universal call to holiness is an ongoing "conversion" experience which keeps opening our eyes to new awareness of God's loving presence. It keeps inviting us to turn toward God by aligning our purposes with God's mission.
(The above text contains edited and direct excerpts from Catholic Vocations, Archdiocese of Melbourne)
Unlike a career or profession which we choose, like a vocation which is a call from God, a ministry is a response to a call from the Church to serve the community in a particular role. Until 1972, ministry was regarded as being reserved to deacons, priests and bishops. Several years later, Pope Paul VI taught: “The laity can also feel called, or in fact be called, to cooperate with their pastors in the service of the church, for the sake of its growth and life.” Pope John Paul II spoke of lay ministries on many occasions. In 1988, he strongly urged pastors to “acknowledge and foster the ministries, offices, and roles of the lay faithful that find their foundation in the Sacraments to Baptism and Confirmation” (Christifideles Laici, 23). In 2000, Pope John Paul II stated that lay ministries, “...can flourish for the good of the whole community... from catechesis to liturgy, from education of the young to the widest array of charitable works” (NMI 46).
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